Jul 312015

In yesterday’s post, I discussed a specific iPhone app, Craft Cabinet, which is designed for keeping track of your craft tools and supplies, as well as your projects. Unlike a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet in which you might enter inventory data into cells, Craft Cabinet is a general-purpose inventory system that uses visual lists (words and photos) for crafts. One of its advantages is that because it is so general, you can customize categories for any items you wish to enter. At the same time, one of the app’s disadvantages is that because it is so general, you have to take the time to create a system that works for you. In a perfect world, it would be great to use an inventory app that is tailor-made for your category of craft supplies.

Today’s post explores exactly that—a free inventory app designed for Tim Holtz’ mixed media craft supplies. The app is appropriately called Tim Holtz, whether you’re using the iPhone or Android version. While Craft Cabinet works only on iPhones, iPads and iPods, and doesn’t sync through the Cloud across devices, the Tim Holtz app does. If you’re carrying your smart phone with you into a store to buy some of his branded supplies and make changes to your inventory while you’re there, in other words, your tablet that waits for you on the coffee table at home reflects those same changes.

Tim Holz Icon

The Tim Holtz app is much more than an inventory system. It links you to Tim’s blog posts, his video tutorials, and his calendar that shows where he is touring. You can find his entire product list on the app, and create a wish list from it that you can use when you shop. If you’re not certain whether you have bought an item previously and want to avoid duplication, the inventory section of the app solves that problem. And, of course, you can use the app to follow Tim Holtz on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

Opening Screen

The Inventory, Products and Wish List parts of the Tim Holtz app are interconnected. If you want to add items to either the Inventory or Wish List, click on the Products icon first, which shows seven product lines. The screenshot below shows only four product lines; you need to swipe through the screen of your device vertically to see the others.

Products Screen

One of the products I use most frequently is Distress Inks, which are part of the Ranger line. When you click on the Ranger icon, you’ll see four different categories of products: Adirondack Alcohol Inks, Adirondack Color Wash, Distress, and Other Ranger Products. If you’re looking for Distress Inks, of course, you’ll click on the Distress icon first, and then the Distress Inks icon.

Ranger Product Line

Distress Products

An alphabetized list appears, with checkmarks on the left side of individual products, and hearts on the right side. When you click on a checkmark, it changes to green and is added to your Inventory. If you click on a heart, it changes to red and is added to your Wish List. That’s about as complicated as the app gets when it comes to tracking your supplies.

Distress Inks

As much as I like the Tim Holtz app, like most apps it glitches every so often. When I accessed the app today, the two functions that weren’t working were the Videos and Facebook features. These are not essential, however, as I have alternative ways to access Tim Holtz videos and Facebook posts on my mobile and desktop devices. I assume the bugs will be fixed soon, as this app is updated regularly. The last update for the iPhone version, for example, was March 18, 2015.

Obviously, this app is geared toward a specific product line, but if you regularly purchase items in that line, the app is indispensable on your trips to the craft, hobby or scrapbooking store. I have a pretty large collection of Tim Holtz products, so this app prevents me from duplicating items on my shopping excursions—and it saves me a tremendous amount of time because I don’t have to create a catalog of the products first.

The next post in this craft inventory series will discuss another app geared toward a specific product line, so check back soon.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jul 302015

One of the endless missions in my crafting life is to organize my supplies and finished products so that I can locate them easily, and know how many of each item is on hand. This enables me to reorder supplies efficiently, and to determine where I need to focus my creative efforts. Depending on your preference, you can inventory both types of items through a spreadsheet (or some other list-keeping method that involves writing things down), or visually. There isn’t a right or wrong inventory method, but if you prefer to see pictures of what you have on hand, there is an app called Craft Cabinet that will enable you to take a visual inventory of any craft supplies, tools or products you own.

Craft Cabinet App Button

According to the developers of Craft Cabinet on their Facebook page:

Craft Cabinet will organize all of your scrap booking, art and craft supplies in one place! Sort items into customizable cabinets and drawers along with pictures, descriptions, locations and notes on your supplies. Also tracks and displays projects!”

To be honest, I already inventoried most of my craft supplies and craft projects through Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets. But I wanted to see how Craft Cabinet might compare, and to explore some areas where it might be preferable to using spreadsheet software.

When you first open the app, this is what you’ll see. Craft Cabinet creates three Drawers to which you can add items called All, Uncategorized and Wishlist.

Opening Screen

By clicking on New in the upper left corner, you can create as many of your own Drawers as you need with customized labels. I added a Drawer called Owire, intended to keep track of the colors, sizes and quantities of owire I have purchased for the books I bind. The number zero to the left of the Owire label indicates that I have not yet added any items to that Drawer.

Newly-created Owire Drawer

After I added items to my Owire Drawer, the opened Drawer showed five different colors of owire. These items are similar to physical files in the drawer of a metal filing cabinet. You can take photos of items as you add them to a Drawer, or use photos from your iPhone’s or iPad’s camera roll. They appear as thumbnails in the item list, and as wallpaper when you click on an item. I’m not sure where the photos are stored. When you snap photos within the app, they are not stored in your iPhone’s or iPad’s camera roll.

Owire Drawer, Opened

When you add an item to a Drawer, you’ll be able to enter such details as Name, Description, Location, and Notes. From top to bottom, you can see these details in the photo below. When you click on the heart in the lower right corner, it changes to yellow, and then that item is added to your Wishlist, making it handy for items you may need to reorder or purchase. The heart is a toggle button, so you can remove items from the Wishlist by clicking a second time on the heart.

File Opened Within Drawer

At the bottom of the opening or home screen, also known as Cabinet, is a Projects icon, represented by a pushpin. When you click on that, a Projects window opens up where you can enter such details as Name, Date and Description. And, of course, you can add a photo. I can see that the Projects feature would be handy to keep track of UFOs (UnFinished Objects), particularly since you can take a photo of the items that are part of the project.

This is a newly-created Project. There is no thumbnail photo because I have not yet taken one.

This is a newly-created Project. There is no thumbnail photo because I have not yet taken one.

When you open up a Project, there are places for a Name, Date and Description. You can add a photo anytime you wish. The photo for this Project has not yet been added.

Also on the home screen is an Options button, represented by a gear. When you click on this button, you can Add Cabinets, edit the name of an existing Cabinet, or delete a selected Cabinet. There is a five-screen tutorial that can be accessed from the Options button as well.

Options Screen

Overall, the Craft Cabinet is pretty versatile. If there are any disadvantages at all, they would be as follows:

  • Entering information into the app, and taking photos, takes more time than data entry does for a spreadsheet. But once that information is entered, it’s easy to locate and use. I don’t think photos are needed for every item in your inventory, however. The owire information that I entered in the app would be faster to enter and access via Microsoft Office Excel.
  • The app does not sync with other mobile devices. If you use it on your iPhone, for example, you can’t sync with the same app on your iPad. Hopefully a future version of Craft Cabinet will remedy this issue.
  • This 99-cent app is designed to work only on the iPhone, iPad and iPod, not on other mobile devices.
  • The app sometimes crashes without any warning (fortunately, without apparent data loss), and the camera feature—which is what makes this app visual—can be buggy. The last time the developer updated the app was in March of 2014.

Do you use an inventory app on one of your mobile devices? How is it working for you?

Return tomorrow for a review of another craft inventory app.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jul 262015

Are inkjet-printed papers a good option for your paper-crafting projects? When I first began crafting handmade books, I used only commercial papers from scrapbooking stores because I assumed they are more colorfast and water-resistant. I have changed my mind, however, and am gradually printing more papers from digital designs, especially for custom orders that involve very specific color-and-design requests. I simply don’t have time to sift through hundreds of individual papers in my storage bins. Running all over town to find the perfect paper option is not a good use of time, and it can be a waste of car fuel, too.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am pushing inkjet-printed papers over commercial ones—talented graphic artists design both types—but when it comes to storage space, I can store thousands of digital papers on a flash drive no bigger than my thumb, as opposed to a stack of paper trays containing hundreds of papers that stand almost as tall as I am. It is also easier and faster to comb through a digital file system to locate specific papers than it is to find physical ones.

The cost of digitally-designed papers might be considered to be cheaper than the cost of commercially-printed papers. For example, a digital paper pack of 10 papers might cost you $3 to $5, while an individual sheet of designer paper typically runs a dollar. Some might argue that the cost of printer ink mitigates the advantage of using digital files that can be re-used to print hundreds of papers, but that’s not an issue I am addressing in this post.

The papers designs shown above were generated digitally and printed on an inkjet printer.

The papers designs shown above were generated digitally and printed on an inkjet printer.

So, how colorfast and water-resistant are papers that are printed on your home inkjet printer? The answer is that it depends on the type of ink your printer uses. Inkjet printers use either pigment ink or dye ink. According to InkGuides.com, pigment ink sits on top of the paper instead of being absorbed into it, and is water-fast in most instances. It dries fast, has a long life, and the colors tend not to fade. This is the type of ink usually found in the cartridges used by color inkjet printers. Dye ink, on the other hand, is used more often in monochrome printers. Colors are available in a wide range, and they are both brilliant and high-contrast.

The age of your inkjet printer can also be a factor that affects the quality of your inkjet-printed papers. A printer that is 10 years old, for example, prints at a lower resolution, may have less water-resistant ink, and may use ink cartridges whose ink fades more quickly. This is because inkjet technology has improved over the years.

“Intensive research and development is continuously done in printer inks,” says InkGuides.com in its article, Ink Types used in Inkjet Cartridges, “which mean that both dye and pigment inks are steadily becoming better in their weak areas.”

There are great inkjet printers that are commonly available from HP, Epson, Canon and other manufacturers in most electronics or office supply stores. My experience is mostly with HP printers, so that’s the ink I’m discussing in this post. HP’s Vivera Photo-versatile inks are designed to be used with HP Photosmart, select HP Deskjet printers and all-in-one products. According to HP, “When combined with HP photo papers, HP Vivera Photo-versatile inks deliver vibrant prints that resist fading for generations. In addition, most HP Vivera Photo-versatile inks are designed to deliver great everyday plain paper printing for documents, e-mail, web pages, and more.” The statistics about the durability of this ink—up to 108 years versus 17 to 40 years for lab-processed photos—make for interesting reading. Visit HP Vivera Inks: Brilliant, Enduring Color for more details.

Today's inkjet printers typically use four to twelve ink cartridges.

Today’s inkjet printers typically use four to twelve ink cartridges.

No printed papers, of course, will survive poor storage conditions: exposure to temperature extremes, sun, wind, water, and so on. For both commercially-printed papers and inkjet-printed papers, you have to employ common sense when you choose your paper storage system.

There is another factor that determines how durable ink is, and that is the type of paper you use. Both commercially printed paper and plain card stock are coated, which means that the ink you print on them will be more water-resistant and fade-resistant than if you printed, for example, on absorbent watercolor paper or paper towels. These latter types of paper products can produce interesting, beautiful results—but if you want the ink to last, you’ll probably have to coat your finished project with some kind of sealant. Some artists like to use spray sealants, but because of many sprays’ toxicity and odor, I prefer to use a micro glaze called Tim Holtz® Distress Micro Glaze™. Although it’s not absolutely necessary to use this type of product on commercially-printed or inkjet-printed papers, I do so because it adds an extra layer of water-resistance to my handmade book covers.

Tim Holtz Distress MIcro GlazeIn Bookbinding Tips: Protecting Covers, Jennifer of Sea Lemon on YouTube describes how she likes to use a clear spray varnish to protect her work. It’s really up to you. If you fast-forward to 1 minute and 50 seconds in her video, she discusses the difference between commercially-printed papers and inkjet-printed papers.

In the final analysis, if you’re low on paper storage space, or you need to keep a wide range of papers available on short notice for custom orders, you may wish to consider using digital papers that you can print yourself as you need them.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.